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Hard and Soft - The Mad Schemes of Dr. Tectonic [entries|archive|friends|userinfo]

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Hard and Soft [Apr. 3rd, 2008|10:47 pm]
Dear Amazon.com,

Okay, I know that you have branched out quite a bit and that you're no longer all about books. People buy all kinds of things from you. But you started out with books, and have done books for a very, VERY long time, so I'm kind of surprised that there's this giant lacuna in the way you handle formats. I'm not talking about the (*snerk*) kindle. (Not even going there.) No, I mean, of course, hardback versus paperback.

Yes, I realize there are other formats, like trade paperback and whatnot, but let's face it: the vast majority of novels come out first in hardback, and then later on in mass-market paperback. And some of us care about that.

There are some folks who want it in hardback and don't like paperbacks. And there are some of us who can't abide hardback. So why is it so hard to figure out which format a particular book is in? And why is there no way to get that preference reflected in our recommendations?

I'm not buying that in hardback. Stop recommending it. No. I don't want it in hardback, tell me when it's out in paperback. Stop recommending that hardback to me, I'm not buying it. STOP IT I DON'T LIKE HARDBACKS WHAT IS WRONG WITH YOU I AM NOT BUYING IT IN HARDBACK THEY'RE TOO BIG AND THEY DON'T FIT ON MY SHELVES AND THEY'RE HARD TO CARRY AROUND AND I HATE THEM!

*ahem* Sooo... anyway. Your customers would think you're really cool if you made it easier for us to buy whichever kind of book we prefer, and steer away from the ones we... don't prefer.



[User Picture]From: srotu27
2008-04-04 04:44 pm (UTC)
Any bookseller wants you to buy in hard cover because they're massively more profitable. If they default to hardcover, there's a customer segment that will be too lazy to look for other available versions. They also want you to believe it's a prestige choice. There is a relatively simple way to find out if a book is available--- it's always in product details, generally about halfway down the page--- they link to all available versions.

I don't disagree with you about balancing customer satisfaction against profits, but they don't. Several years ago, they offered my company a deal--- any time we linked to a book on their site and someone bought it, we'd get a commission. Probably only a few cents per purchase, but we do book reviews and mention books in columns--- it was a shot at some low-effort cash. We had to make the decision whether to link to the hardcover versions and make more money or to link to the paperback in the assumption that people don't like being fleeced. We chose to forgo some potential profits and focus on service to our constituents and linked to the least expensive available version, which worked out well because we never got paid.

What I'd like to figure out is how they can offer you a pre-publication discount on a book scheduled to come out in a month and then delay it (so far) 10 months. I've done the pre-publication thing with them twice and been forced to authorize months of delays or miss out on the title and its attendant discount. I understand about publication delays probably even better than the next guy, but there's something wrong with this--- neither of the authors of the books that I faced this with were novices or unknowns. This is a distribution error, not a publishing error. Amazon is at best a (for now) necessary evil.
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[User Picture]From: nehrlich
2008-04-04 06:02 pm (UTC)
In your second paragraph, are you talking about something different than the Amazon Associates program? That's worked well for me - I write occasional book reviews at my site and when somebody clicks through to Amazon and buys a book, I get a 4% cut. Not much - maybe $20 a year served to me in the form of a gift certificate, but it's something.
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[User Picture]From: srotu27
2008-04-04 07:48 pm (UTC)
It might have been a precursor to that program--- I couldn't say for sure. I'm in the publications department and we were just asked to use a link format provided through a partnership with our marketing department. As it was, whether through the fault of our marketing department (wholly possible) or through Amazon, we never got paid.
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